Family flare-ups are no fun. No one really intends to start them. And it's reasonable to believe that nearly everyone involved would rather have them extinguished before they spread.
What is often needed is a reliable fire extinguisher.
In Proverbs we're told, "A soft answer turneth away wrath." n1 And in the book of Luke, Christ Jesus says, "Unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other." n2
n1 Proverbs 15:1
n2 Luke 6:29
But does such counsel really heal flareups? Or does it merely make one family member submissive to another?
An examination of Jesus' example helps answer this question. AT one time a mob threatened him. Critics harped and harped. close friends (his own disciples!) failed to support him as he was unjustly arrested and finally crucified. He never fought back physically, and even rebuked a disciple for trying to defend him with a sword. But was Jesus submissive? Or weak? Did he wither before the Pharisees' criticism?
Hardly. As one reads the gospel accounts of his life, an overwhelming feeling of triumph accompanies the Master's steadfast tenderness and love.
How could Jesus have been so steady? Perhaps because he knew that his God-given mission brought him for a good purpose to each situation (rather than the situation "happening" to him in a random way). And, what's more, Jesus knew that God was his creator, the rock of his identity and being.
Can we know that God is our creator, too? Absolutely! Our true nature (and, as we live this nature, our day-to-day well-being) is safe and secure now because it is founded on the same rock. Referring to the coming of Christ, Truth, to her in prayer, Mary Baker Eddy n3 states in one of her poems: Thus Truth engrounds me on the rock, Upon Life's shore, 'Gainst which the winds and waves can shock, Oh, nevermore! n4
n3 Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science
n4 Miscellaneous Writings,m p. 397
When we resort to this wonderful and powerful "rock," when we hold mentally to the fact -- and prove it in our life -- that divine Love gives us our true nature, we can keep our composure if incidents arise in the home. We can help put out the fire both for ourselves and for others.
Returning the "soft answer" that is inspired by Love when family sparks fly not only can extinguish the fire. It can also heal the entire situation -- remove the conflict and solve whatever problem may have caused the outburst. This latter is important, for if our goal is merely the maintainence of agreement, deeper problems may be ignored. If we are willing to meet each occasion as an opportunity to prove the power of divine Love over every claim of evil to a place in human personality, we will both still inharmony and help the family achieve a more secure peace.
Of course, not everthing that might be used as a "soft answer" will turn away wrath. If what is considered "soft" actually reflects a weak or intimidated state of thought, then things are likely to grow worse, not better. Such a mental framework is just the opposite of what characterized Jesus' encounters.
Sparks without fuel do not start fires. Often, it's not so much the initial salvo that results in a family quarrel. It's the reaction, the retort, the bite-back from another family member. Right where we might expect the quick retort is where the soft answer belongs. Sometimes the soft answer can be silence -- a moment of reflection until the right response comes.
In the verse preceding the one quoted above, Mrs. Eddy writes:
And o'er earth's troubled, angry sea I see Christ walk,
And come to me, and tenderly, Divinely talk. n5
This can happen in that quiet pause as we listen to God for the "soft answer" that will remove wrath and lead to peace.
No one really wants to quarrel! DAILY BIBLE VERSE He maketh the sto rm a calm. Psalms 107:29